MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A man wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing his stepdaughter will likely receive $475,000 from Minnesota taxpayers — but the state legislature must still approve the award.
In his attorney’s office Wednesday, Roger Olsen described how he still has trouble getting a job even a decade after the conviction was tossed.
He is also scared to be alone with a woman or a child for fear he will be falsely accused.
The law providing compensation for wrongful convictions went into effect in 2014. Olsen says the nearly half-a-million dollars he is expected to get will help, but it cannot begin to restore what he has lost.
“I want my life back,” Olsen said.
He was accused of multiple counts of sexual assault by his stepdaughter in 2006, who was in fourth grade at the time.
Prosecutors tried to get him to take a plea deal.
“I fought it all the way. I wouldn’t give in. Why give in and lie and say something I didn’t do?” Olsen said.
A jury convicted him despite a complete absence of physical evidence. He was sentenced to 24 year in prison.
Olsen said he considered suicide while behind bars.
“I didn’t expect to live in there,” he said. “Everybody gets beat, raped.”
But court documents show that soon after his conviction, the child leveled almost the identical accusations against his mother’s new boyfriend.
Prosecutors decided not to prosecute the boyfriend, and Olsen’s case was reopened and eventually dismissed.
Olsen served 30 months in prison — a sentence that forever changed him.
“I just ain’t the same person I used to be,” Olsen said.
He says he has struggled with depression and has not been able to get a job. He also says many residents of Houston County in southeastern Minnesota still believe he is guilty.
“No one will hire me. I went to five different states to get work,” he said.
Attorney Steve Meshbesher says sexual assault cases are the only ones where convictions can occur solely on witness testimony.
“The system didn’t work in this case,” Meshbesher said. “He’s a victim of the system.”
The child who accused Olsen is now in her twenties and lives in another state. She was never charged with providing false testimony.
The Houston County Attorney’s Office, which brought the case against Olsen and won the conviction against him, declined to comment.